Another Case of Male Privilege – Reproductive Rights

Why is it that people, mainly men, think they have the right to control what a woman does with her own body?
There is an artlce in The Telegraph discussing a private clinic in the U.K. which is offering walk-in, ten minute sterilization procedure for woman that leave no scars.  The clinic is marketing this procedure to woman who want to keep the procedure a secret, and there in lies the rub.

The article says:

Medical experts condemned the sales pitch being used, which they said was a “cynical” attempt to encourage secrecy in relationships.

Dr Allan Pacey, a fertility lecturer at the University of Sheffield said: “This seems really sad – it looks like a worrying and cynical attempt to trade on dishonesty and deceit.

“Of course women have to be able to control their fertility, but in a relationship people need to be able to have conversations about this kind of thing – taking a step like this behind a partner’s back is so dysfunctional, and if women are doing it just so they can sleep around, they are leaving their partner at all sorts of risks. Ethically, this is a huge can of worms.”

He said some women who chose to have the operation in secret because their culture or religion opposed the use of contraception, could end up suffering ill-consequences if they mysteriously stopped producing children.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said: “I do think this is pretty cynical. It’s really important when women are making a decision like this that it is very carefully considered – for most of them that means a conversation and coming to a shared view with their partner.

“I can understand why some women might not want to discuss this but I would be very cautious of promoting that as a specific benefit of any treatment.”


The point that everyone seems to be missing here is that they, the ones who are urging caution and/or outrage, are assuming that they actually have any kind of vested interest in what any woman does with her body.  It’s just assumed that it is OK to push themselves into this most private of medical and life decisions.  It is also assumed that they, and by proxy, society at large, have a vested interest in what happens in a relationship between two consenting adults.

It is this false sense of privilege that is the real outrage here.

I’m sure most of us would agree that it would be best that both partners in a relationship be honest with each other about something as important as their reproductive status and desires, but there is, and should be, no law against keeping these things private.  Even if one of the parties were to lie to the other, this is still a matter between the two of them and no one else.

Here is an interesting question I’d love to put to these people: Would you, or do you, apply the same standards that you would to women in this case to men who have vasectomies, which also leave little or no noticeable scaring?  I have a pretty good idea that the answer is no.

This is another example of male privilege that I’ve talked of time and time again.  Yes, it is true that one of the people who questioned the privacy issues in the article is a woman, but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t still influenced by the male privilege that permeates society.  She, like many woman, just accept the male privilege without question, not necessarily because they really believe in it, but more likely because that’s how they were brought up and they have never even considered that there is another way to look at it.
That’s the point of this and other posts I have written.

That is the point that other writers like Amanda Marcotte, Jen McCraight, and Rebecca Watson are trying to make.  Among consenting adults, only one person has any say in decisions about their reproductive capabilities, and that’s the person who will undergo a sterilization procedure. Period.  Full stop.

Only we have the right over our bodies.  Only we should decide health and reproductive matters for ourselves.  Unless there is harm or the immediate potential for harm, only we and our partners should decide what goes on between us.  These are fundamental human rights and it is up to us to stand up and defend them where ever and whenever we can.

2 thoughts on “Another Case of Male Privilege – Reproductive Rights

  1. You notice that the “medical experts” (generalized in the article when that phrase was used, as though to make it sound as though the entire MD community was speaking) consisted of a few MDs…all of whom were male? *smirking grin*

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